PlateUp! is a thoroughly enjoyable, addictive, and oddly calming experience. The background music is strangely soothing, and the repetitive nature of the tasks is comforting. Where others in a similar genre cause arguments, PlateUp! has the true spirit of collaboration.
While on the outside Thirsty Suitors seems like a tongue-in-cheek game about reconnecting with your past, it reveals so much more beneath the surface. That's not to say it isn't humorous, but it's also doing much more besides. It's a commentary on societal expectations, living as a second-generation immigrant in a different culture, finding yourself, and accepting others. It's a deep experience packaged in such a light-hearted box, and never feels overbearing. The story of Jala, her family, and friends, each with their own lived experiences, feels so important and relevant to today's society, and it's a joy to play through.
Nevertheless, this refreshed iteration of Murder on the Orient Express is a joy to play. The inclusion of new content and the unique modern setting really make for a very fun time. Small issues can’t mar the fact that this is ultimately a very enjoyable case to crack.
Memories of Marl Kingdom improves on its predecessor's weaknesses. Battles offer up a challenge and need to actually be thought about. The chapters in the game are set before, during, and after the events of the first two Rhapsody games, giving a deeper insight into the stories. Again, injected with musical intermissions, it’s an all-round better experience than Ballad of the Little Princess, albeit a much briefer one.
There are some really uncomfortable themes throughout both of the LISA games, both opening with a reminder that the protagonists are over 18. This warning doesn’t make these feelings go away, and we found that there was a general sense of unease throughout the entire playthrough – but then, this is wholly intentional. Neither of these games are sunshine and rainbows, so it does its job perfectly. LISA: Definitive Edition will leave you thinking for days after completion about the complexities of the human condition. It’s a deep experience packaged in a grotesque and uncomfortable game.
Other game modes feel slightly less frenetic than the campaign and scenario modes, and are definitely the modes to try if you really want to take your time and not feel rushed. There's definitely a lot of opportunity to play the game exactly how you want to, and find the mode that works for you if you feel the competitive options are a bit too stressful.
If the lead character’s HP reaches zero then it’s game over. All character levels are lost upon defeat, and you’ll have to start the dungeon from the first floor, keeping your equipment and any learned skills. Though the floors are short, it’s best to take your time and level up steadily to make progress in preparation for the potential difficulty spike, otherwise you’ll pay the price for trying to rush through. The game's flow can feel quite protracted as a result, and there’s a certain amount of level grinding from the off.
Garden Simulator is low risk, low reward, but highly addictive. We spent hours before we even realised it, and found the experience to be thoroughly relaxing; exactly what the small plot of the game sets out to achieve. While it’s nice to potter around your small garden and admire your crops, it does feel somewhat tedious after a while. Tasks tend to be repeated in some form or another, and there’s no variation in season or weather. Every day is the same. It feels like a trick has been missed with this, and that so much more could have been done by adding this in, along with some garden pests.
Live A Live is an incredibly interesting and unique JRPG experience. With lovely HD-2D graphics and numerous main characters, it's hard not to compare it to the likes of Octopath Traveler, but it really is a completely different kettle of fish. Live A Live is a varied thrill ride that still impresses all these years later, and while the combat does struggle to live up to the rest of the adventure, the game does a fantastic job of tying all of its intriguing, individual stories together. It's a history-hopping journey we'll be thinking about for quite some time.
For a game that was never meant to exist, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is a revelation. It has everything a Holmes fan could want; mysteries to unravel, fun dialogue and banter between Holmes and Watson, and plenty of investigations to be had. Playing through with barely any instruction or assistance from the game itself really gives a sense of achievement not often found with other detective games. A compelling and mythical storyline is really the cherry on top of a fantastic, thought-provoking game which will have players exploring every nook and cranny to get to the bottom of the mystery at hand.
Tchia feels really unlike any experience we've ever had with a video game. Full of heart, but occasionally lacking direction, it's a unique experience showcasing the love the dev team has for New Caledonia. Everything about Tchia evokes a wonderful tropical vibe, full of rich history and culture, from the folklore elements of the storyline to the authentic voice acting in New Caledonia's native language, Drehu. Unfortunate bugs let it down and stop players experiencing it to its fullest, but a solid, enjoyable, and ultimately beautiful game is at its core. It's evident that a lot of love has been poured into this really exciting debut from Awaceb, and as a day one PS Plus Extra release, it's bound to bring a lot of joy to a lot of players.
Octopath Traveler II presents enough rich, turn-based action to forgive its minor combat system flaws. It's a breath-taking work of art, filled to the brim with story and adventure, bolstered by a cast of incredible characters who will leave you wanting more at every turn. A masterfully crafted RPG.
Visually, The Entropy Centre can be a bit hit-and-miss. A lot has clearly been put into the visual aspect, but it does often feel like assets are reused over and over. As such, the inside of the facility can often feel a bit stale and samey. The same cannot be said for the outside of the facility, though, where outer space looks incredible and almost picture-perfect.
Unfortunately, there are also a lot of bugs present in the game. Characters will glitch in and out of existence while you’re talking with them. Sometimes the whole screen will go black and your character will pop up in a different part of the map when fast travelling. It’s things like this that really stop Potion Permit from reaching its potential, and its charming visuals can only do so much to counter this.
I Was A Teenage Exocolonist is a fun visit through adolescence which begs the player to keep living life to the max, experiencing all the game can offer. It's a beautifully artistic game, with many opportunities for a unique experience every time you play.
To be fair, the game is visually appealing, with a minimalistic art style that manages to convey the feeling of the time. It's an interesting experience and a unique premise (how many other Cold War disaster games are you going to play this year?), but ultimately that can't save the title from falling a bit flat.
Landing itself somewhere between a twin-stick shooter and a rhythm game, Soundfall feels like it's not really doing one or other of these particularly successfully. Saved by an incredible soundtrack, Soundfall has the potential to be a really incredible game with an exciting concept, but is let down by repetitive gameplay and a weak story.
All in all, this is a beautifully crafted cautionary tale about the horrors of war and the true devastation it can rain on ordinary civilians. Like real war, every story you play will be different with different outcomes, and you’ll be led to make increasingly more desperate and erratic choices to ensure the survival of your characters.